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An Interview With Manuel Quesada

The head of Manufactura de Tabacos S.A. (Matasa), makers of Fonseca, Cubita and other cigars.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Alec Baldwin, May/June 2004

(continued from page 6)

A: Oh, we had people come in with suitcases full of money, open it up and then, "Here, take it. I need cigars." At the height of the boom in ,95, all the people that were coming into the Dominican Republic were stealing from cigarmakers right and left by offering all kinds of stupid wages and offering incentives and giving loans, and it was just crazy.

So we had a meeting at Pro Cigar [the association of Dominican cigarmakers] and we said, "Guys, we either take the high road or we take the low road." Now, if we're in business for the boom, let's

take the low road and retire at the end of the boom. But if we're going to be here after the boom, we have to be very conscious of what our situation is. Because, when all of this clears, the ones

left behind are going to inherit whatever craziness was done during the boom.

If you go back to the boom and you do a study of pricing, the cheapest cigars during the boom were the Fonsecas, the Macanudos, the H. Upmanns, the Montecristos. We were selling cigars at between $5 and $7 when people were getting $12, $13, $18, $20 a cigar. Again, we had to make a choice, and we made the choice. Because we weren't there for the moment. We're here for the long run. Now, whether that's smart or dumb, I don't know.

Q: When did you realize that the craze was starting to come to an end?

A: The RTDA of ,97—I forget where it was—but we noticed that the new guys that were coming with all this, "My great-grandfather was a barber, but he lived in a place that had tobacco…," they weren't

getting all the excitement that they were getting in ,95 and ,94 and ,96. In ,98, it just stopped.

Q: So, you had some bad years after that?

A: Well, ,98 and ,99 were not happy years at all. And 2000, for that matter. Two thousand and one started to get a little better, but, then, some manufacturers continued making cheap cigars. And today that's still the case.

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